University of Florida

New UF coordinator Geoff Collins OK with lofty expectations for defense

Geoff Collins served as defensive coordinator at FIU in 2010.
Geoff Collins served as defensive coordinator at FIU in 2010. Miami Herald Staff

Will Muschamp had plenty of pitfalls as Florida’s former coach, but presiding over a dominant defense wasn’t one of them.

The Gators ranked among the country’s top-10 total defenses the past four seasons, and new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins isn’t about to oversee a letdown.

“[Lofty] expectations are fine with me,” Collins said.

“We have high expectations in our room. We want to be one of the best defenses in the country.”

Collins is embracing the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” with Florida utilizing a similar scheme and familiar terminology to Muschamp’s system.

“It’s very similar, and I think, obviously, there’s some really good players on that side of the ball, too,” new coach Jim McElwain said. “Obviously, some of the nomenclature is a little different here and there, but overall it’s a very similar style of defense.”

Ideally, Florida’s defensive transition will be seamless and the players’ learning curves short.

McElwain and Collins want to “create chaos,” and playing fast and loose is essential to that style.

“They already have the basics of [the scheme],” Collins said. “We just put tweaks in. I think the kids appreciate that. It helps them play fast. … It speeds up their development. That’s been a big plus for us.”

Still, talent is Collins’ ultimate trump card.

The Gators’ roster — flawed offensively — is loaded with defensive studs.

“There’s some really nice players out there,” Collins said, grinning.

The former Mississippi State defensive coordinator — nicknamed the Minister of Mayhem for his energy and aggressive style — inherits a stockpiled unit headlined by All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and versatile defensive lineman Jon Bullard.

Few teams rival the Gators’ secondary, and Florida has accumulated defensive line talent over the past several recruiting classes.

Concerns at linebacker remain, and the Gators must replace Dante Fowler’s pass-rushing production, but the defense is “way ahead” of Florida’s revamped offense early in camp, McElwain said.

Collins hopes to build depth and define roles this spring. His unit is focusing on “situational football,” with third-down and red-zone work key priorities.

Last season, Collins’ Bulldogs defense was the stingiest red-zone unit in the country.

“Every single day you step into the defensive unit room, they’re excited to be there, excited to play, excited to learn what you’re going to teach them,” Collins said.

“They’re really talented too. We’re just having a blast.”